Stanley Cup Finals : Oilers Can Put Title on Home Ice

Times Staff Writer

Prolonged by a power failure Tuesday night at Boston Garden, the Stanley Cup championship series has moved back to the Northlands Coliseum, where tonight the Edmonton Oilers will attempt to extinguish the Boston Bruins.

And not for the first time.

Leading in the best-of-seven series, 3-0, the Oilers pulled even with the Bruins, 3-3, in Game 4 Tuesday night when the lights went out in Boston Garden at 16 minutes 37 seconds of the second period, leading to an evacuation of the crowd of 14,451 and eventually forcing postponement of the game.

That, in turn, led to a revision of the series schedule.

The fourth game will be replayed in its entirety tonight, giving the Oilers an unexpected opportunity to again win the National Hockey League championship on their home ice.


The Oilers won Cup-clinching games at the Northlands Coliseum in 1984, 1985 and again last season, and are 10-0 at home in the playoffs this season.

“It would have been to our advantage to play the game and finish it here,” Ken Linseman of the Bruins said late Tuesday night as he left Boston Garden. “As it is, we’re in a big hole.”

Oiler Coach Glen Sather, a smile on his face, said Wednesday: “It was a bad situation that worked out well.”

By almost any reckoning, the Oilers got the better of it when NHL President John Ziegler, citing NHL bylaws, announced the decision to replay the game at Edmonton.

“I didn’t think we were playing very well when the lights went out,” Oiler co-coach John Muckler said.

The Bruins overcame a 2-0 deficit, taking a 3-2 lead on a pair of second-period goals by rookie defenseman Glen Wesley, before Craig Simpson of the Oilers re-directed a shot by teammate Steve Smith into the net to tie the game with 3:23 left in the second period.

Joel Perlmutter, the public-address announcer, was cut off in mid-sentence by the power failure in making his announcement of the goal.

It already was an unusual game, played in a fog that resulted from high temperatures in the building. Several times, the game was delayed as the players skated in circles in an attempt to dissipate the moisture.

“One time,” Bruin assistant coach John Cunniff said, “Wesley got the puck and was looking to make a pass, but he said he couldn’t see anyone.”

Said Jari Kurri of the Oilers, a native of Helsinki: “There’s a rink in Finland that’s comparable to this one. They don’t play there anymore.”

Play had not resumed after Simpson’s goal when the lights went out. Within 30 minutes, the 60-year-old building was evacuated, league spokesmen said later, for safety reasons.

No looting was reported, although vendor Brian Morey, who works a concession stand in the upper deck, told the Boston Herald that he aborted attempts by fans to make off with food and drinks.

“We’re as far away (from the ice) as you can get,” Morey said, “so we get the real dirt bags up there.”

The players returned to darkened dressing rooms, where several showered and dressed under the illumination of battery-powered television lights.

“Most of the players wanted to go out and finish the game,” Bob Joyce of the Bruins said.

Bruin goaltender Andy Moog said it was an awkward situation for the players, who were told to wait for a decision.

When they were told the game was postponed, Moog said: “You didn’t really know how to feel. For 37 minutes, you played the most intense hockey of your life and then they tell you to forget it--forget it and we’ll just do it again.

“I don’t think any of us want to comment negatively on the Garden. We love the building. We love to play here.”

However, teammate Rick Middleton said: “Looks like it might be time to put this building to rest.”

If not the building, how about the Bruins?

Sather wouldn’t say that his usually more explosive, free-wheeling team would be at an advantage playing on the larger ice surface at the Northlands Coliseum, but he made it clear that playing at home beat the alternative.

“The ice is ice in Edmonton,” he said. “In Boston, it was like skating in sand.”

And that was only the least of the problems.

Hockey Notes

What should tonight’s game be called? “The Americans will call it 4-A,” Wayne Gretzky said. “We’ll call it 4, eh?” . . . If the series goes the full seven games, Game 5 will be played Saturday night at Boston, Game 6 Tuesday night at Edmonton and Game 7 Thursday night at Boston. . . . Held out of the Bruin lineup Tuesday night was Michael Thelven, who was knocked unconscious when hit by Marty McSorley of the Oilers in the second period of Game 3 Sunday night. “I don’t want to play if it’s going to hurt my career or hurt my brain,” Thelven told the Boston Herald. Asked if he remembered being hit, Thelven said: “I don’t remember anything in the whole period.” . . . Also scratched Tuesday night was Jay Miller, whose retaliatory roughing penalty after the hit on Thelven led to a power-play goal by Esa Tikkanen that sent the Oilers on their way to a 6-3 victory. . . . Bruin Coach Terry O’Reilly said that Andy Moog, the former Oiler goaltender who started for the Bruins Tuesday night, will start again tonight. . . . Oiler Coach Glen Sather, asked if he’d given any thought to using backup goaltender Bill Ranford with the Oilers holding a 3-0 lead in the series: “Silly question.” . . . Goaltender Grant Fuhr has played in 93 of the Oilers’ 98 games this season and has started in 36 straight playoff games. . . . The Oilers are 38-8-4 at home this season.